There is so much good in the worst of us, And so much bad in the best of us, That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us. – Edward Wallis Hoch

We all fall into the trap of jumping into conclusions even when we don’t have all the facts, we conclude using limited data. We jump into conclusions using various strategies such as Mind Reading, Labelling, Fortune Telling, Mislabelling, among other things. Like Mark Twain once quipped, it is not what we don’t know that get us into trouble, it is what we think we know for sure that ain’t so.

Jumping to conclusions is a psychological term referring to a communication obstacle where one “judge[s] or decide[s] something without having all the facts; to reach unwarranted conclusions. In other words, “when I fail to distinguish between what I observed first hand from what I have only inferred or assumed”. Because it involves making decisions without having enough information to be sure that one is right, this can give rise to poor or rash decisions that often cause more harm to something than good.

Imagine yelling at a stranger at a park because they are not responding to you, only to discover they are deaf, Many relationships have been ruined as a result of jumping into conclusions, your husband is talking to a male friend named kiki but you assume he is having an affair, your friend did not return your email or phone call and you conclude he is ignoring you but on further investigation, he just lost his mum or he died last week,

Subtypes of Jumping into conclusions:

  • Mind reading – Where there is a sense of access to special knowledge of the intentions or thoughts of others. People may assume that others think negatively of them.
  • Fortune telling – Where one has inflexible expectations for how things will turn out before they happen. A person may predict the outcome of something will be negative before they have any evidence to suggest that maybe the case.
  • Labeling – Where overgeneralizations done because of labeling all the members of a group with the characteristics seen in some, i.e., it involves using an unfavorable term to describe a complex person or event

Recently a young couple had moved into a rural neighborhood. Living next door to this couple was Bill and Mary. One morning while eating breakfast. Mary looked out of the window and watched her new young neighbor hanging our her washed clothes to dry them.

That laundry isn’t very clean!” Bill told Mary.

“Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get her clothes clean!” Bill read the paper and didn’t say a word. Every time her new neighbor hung her laundry, Kate would make the same comments. Bill continued to say nothing. A few weeks later….Mary was surprised to look out her window and see a nice, fresh and clean row of wash hung out to dry. In a surprise, she said to her husband: “Look Bill she finally knows how to clean her laundry!”

” I wonder what she learned?” Mary asked.
Bill replied: “Honey, I might have an answer for you.”
“Really?” Mary said.
“Yes, I do……” Bill Said.
“I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
“I guess we finally learned to wash the windows!”

What window are you looking out of?

We would be wise to focus on our own laundry before we worry about someone else’s.

In his classic book, the seven habits of highly effective people, steven covey shares a great story about not jumping into conclusions/making assumptions:

“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly—some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.”

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said,

“Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it.

We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.”

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz advised Don’t make assumptions:

“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking — we take it personally — then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.”

“Making assumptions in our relationships is really asking for problems. Often we make the assumption that our partners know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want. We assume they are going to do what we want, because they know us so well. If they don’t do what we assume they should do, we feel so hurt and say, “You should have known.”

“We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.”

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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